Caregiver stressors and depressive symptoms among older husbands and wives in the United States

J Women Aging. 2017 Nov-Dec;29(6):494-504. doi: 10.1080/08952841.2016.1223962. Epub 2016 Sep 27.


Framed by Pearlin's Stress Process Model, this study prospectively examines the effects of primary stress factors reflecting the duration, amount, and type of care on the depressive symptoms of spousal caregivers over a2-year period, and whether the effects of stressors differ between husbands and wives. Data are from the 2004 and 2006 waves of the Health and Retirement Study and we included community-dwelling respondents providing activities of daily life (ADL) and/or instrumental activities of daily life (IADL) help to their spouses/partners (N = 774). Results from multivariate regression models indicate that none of the primary stressors were associated with depressive symptoms. However, wives providing only personal care had significantly more depressive symptoms than wives providing only instrumental care, while husbands providing different types of care showed no such differences. To illuminate strategies for reducing the higher distress experienced by wife caregivers engaged in personal care assistance, further studies are needed incorporating couples' relational dynamics and gendered experiences in personal care.

Keywords: Depressive symptoms; Pearlin’s Stress Process Model (PSPM); spousal caregiving.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living / psychology
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • United States